Andreas Athanasiou Wants to Play the Blackhawks Right Out of the Top Pick in the Draft

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Andreas Athanasiou Wants to Play the Blackhawks Right Out of the Top Pick in the Draft

Chicago Blackhawks

After the second group of Blackhawks skaters came off the ice at Fifth Third Arena on Friday afternoon, a few reporters gathered around Andreas Athanasiou’s stall in the Blackhawks dressing room to talk to him about his performance in the Blackhawks’ first preseason game. A light-hearted conversation about who the fastest player in the NHL is, with one reporter straight up asking him who would win a skate without a puck on the stick, he or Connor McDavid?

Athanasiou laughed off the question and went the diplomatic route, complementing the speed of the NHL star. His new teammate and probably linemate on opening night, Max Domi, did not. Domi emphatically said that Athanasiou is the fastest player in the NHL, bar none.

While Domi might have been propping his new teammate up, he’s not far off, if at all. Athanasiou’s speed is why new head coach Luke Richardson is such a big fan and seems to be angling to put him on his top line with Patrick Kane and Max Domi when the puck drops on the regular season in Colorado.

“He uses his edges very well, and he’s kind of quiet if you can say that,” Richardson said of Athanasiou on Friday afternoon. “Coaching against him, it used to always be, ‘watch his speed,’ whether it was penalty killing or power play, and he seemed to get two breaks a game, just like early the other night. Even if you’re aware of it, it happens, so that’s great. I think it’ll give him opportunities, and I think people are going to have to gravitate to that speed, and that’ll open up his line mates for more room and opportunities.”

We saw the speed on display at the United Center on Tuesday night, when Athanasiou was on a line with Domi and Kane against the Blues. Unfortunately, while the scoring chances came, none were converted — a double-edged sword for the Blackhawks (yeah, you want to see the chances come as a result of the paired skillsets, but you also want to see them finish at the net).

Athanasiou said they’d finish at the net in time. And to be fair, while the 28-year-old winger has had some down seasons in between, he showed that he could finish when he scored 30 goals for the Red Wings during the 2018-19 season.

“It’s [was] our first preseason game, and we’re still trying to get a feel for each other,” Athanasiou said. “The goals are going to come, and we’re going to get opportunities. When the season starts, we just have to make sure those shots are getting into the net.”

As for how he feels about getting the opportunity to skate with Kane and Domi this season, Athanasiou knows it’s a great opportunity.

“I think it’s good, both of those guys are highly skilled, so if you just get them the puck and open up ice for them, they’ll find the right play. So, it’s kind of just getting open for them and using speed to create open ice.”

This line has the potential to generate a lot of points for however long they’re together this season, and possibly even threaten the scoring prowess of the DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line from last season that scored in buckets during the second half of the season.

That’s a problem for the Blackhawks, long-term, though. Kyle Davidson has made it clear that he’s rebuilding this team from the ground up. Having a high draft pick next summer is vital to the pace of that plan.

Luke Richardson said during the first day of camp that he and his players would make it hard for Davidson and the Blackhawks to tank their way to the top overall pick in the draft next year, as any good coach should.

The thing is, putting all that speed, play-making, and scoring on one line might make Richardson’s remarks more true than Davidson would have hoped.

The players have all said that they’re here to win hockey games. Athanasiou doubled-down and said that the outside noise is often wrong, and he believes they’ve got a great group in the Blackhawks dressing room.

“I don’t know if you can really listen to those people that much. Most of those people are so, so, off so many times, year in and year out. It’s the NHL, every team is good, and every team can come in and win on any given night no matter who it is, so it’s just a matter of who we have in this room and how often we bring it for a full 60. We have plenty of skill in here, plenty of size throughout the lineup, and we’re pretty solid. It’s funny when you see everything they say, but you never know. Just go out there and play one game at a time.”

I tend to believe that Anathasiou is at least partly right in that there’s enough talent in that dressing room to make Davidson’s quest for the top pick one with an arduous path.

In the end, Blackhawks fans should hope that Anathasiou and the rest of the bunch are correct because that’ll mean that they’re playing at a high enough level to which Kyle Davidson has a few highly sought-after players ahead of the trade deadline that can further build out his war chest of future assets and talented young prospects.

This line might be a problem for Davidson in the immediate future, but it’s likely still a good problem to have.

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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.